How did it become so ‘normal’ to opt for technology over dealing with people? What has happened to bring us to the point where so many people prefer to interact with machines rather than with other human beings? I suggest that technological and social factors are interacting to create a new paradigm for information and communications technology, one with a profound effect on how we communicate. I would like to highlight three developments.
Evolving Technology Is Driving Social Choices
The first is the rise of the Internet itself, and the fact that it has become so fast and convenient. As connectivity and speed have improved we Internet users have changed as well: we spend more time on-line, we go on-line for more activities, innovative Internet-based businesses have emerged, and many people have become digital content creators. In simple terms, the speed, convenience and ubiquity of the Internet encourage us to engage more with technology.
A second intersection of the technological and the social is the explosion in mobile connectivity. The capacity to access the Internet and ‘the cloud’ through cell phones, smart phones, and tablet computers is revolutionizing the commercial landscape, the world of work, and our social lives. Before long the desktop computer may seem as archaic as telephone booths and smoking on airplanes, as creative interplay between the Internet and the telephone transforms the information and the communications fields, and through them the world of commerce. The trends toward easier access and greater mobility will surely continue as technologies evolve.
A third factor, and perhaps the most significant, is the explosion of social media. Social networking is growing by leaps and bounds, and the social media are just beginning to tap into their commercial potential, with Microsoft’s recent decision to acquire LinkedIn a harbinger of things to come. It is still early days, but social media are clearly reshaping the way the on-line world thinks about people, brands, products, and companies.
Why is it so easy to choose ‘tech’? The Internet, mobile connectivity, and social media make it so. If we want to find a better balance between tech and touch going forward, this is the rapidly evolving environment in which we will need to operate.